Sunday, July 12, 2015

Loss of innocence

My father brought me into the living room and directed me to sit on the divan. My 5-year-old body barely caused a dent in the pillowed bench. Excitement beat like a jackhammer along my skin--I was delirious.

"Abra-ca-da-bra." My father intoned the beginning of a chant that would create a toy beneath the cushion.

My 7-year-old brother slithered  into the room. "It's fake. Look now. The toy is already there!"

What? Really? My eyes widened, and I started to get up, but my father placed a gentle hand on my shoulder.

"Don't listen to him," my father warned. "If you look, you'll kill the magic."

But like Eve in the Garden, my curiosity had been unleashed by a snake, this time in the shape of my older brother.

I can still see my father's eyes, kind and steady, willing me to remain innocent and rely on his magnificent magical powers to feed my wonder. Countless times his magical chant had created a plastic doll, or a book of rhymes, or a wooden whistle, or some other marvelous prize. When I tried to conjur a toy without his presence, even though I'd repeat his chant, I could create nothing. My father was the Great Magician... Or was he?

Curiosity nipped at the edges of my developing brain. I turned to my brother.

"Do it! Look! He's tricking you!" My brother jumped around like popcorn on a hot skillet.

Time stopped as my eyes danced between my father and my brother.

Curiosity won out over obedience and I jumped up, raised the cushion, and discovered the bright red ball.

"Okay," my father said, resignation tainting his acquiescence.

The full reality of the moment sunk in and I knew two things: I could keep the ball, but the game of magic was over. Forever.

I felt like I imagine Eve felt in the Bible story...  so very sorry, and couldn't we just pretend that I'd never looked? But it didn't matter how I felt--the veil of magic had been pierced, and my world was forever changed.

Years later, looking back on this memory, I see a third thing in this experience: Curiosity. I took ownership of this powerful emotion that afternoon. I think it's good that I did because curiosity is what eventually leads us from our comfort zone of safety and onto a path of adventure. Without it, we'd never leave home when it's time to journey into the larger world.

I have to say, truth be told, I'd rather have the driving curiosity I have today than a childlike, childish innocence.